Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Presidential Debates

The appointment of the University President is, locally and at the moment, garnering more attention than the campaigns of the US President hopefuls. The local news reports that students are staging demonstrations, faculty have considered formal resolutions upbraiding the "search" committee for providing only one finalist, and the College Republicans have their own letter-writing campaign (in support of the nominee).

The students mainly object to a candidate who has a history of right-wing conservative politics, including a previous gubernatorial campaign. The faculty object to "appointing administrators who couldn't even qualify for tenure", since the candidate has only a Bachelor's degree. The College Republicans argue that he has a history of successful fundraising, and that's all that should matter. What else is a president for, anyway?

I agree with earlier protests that a "search" committee should be capable of finding more than one finalist for a position; having only one makes me wonder how many people would actually be willing to associate themselves with our university. I'm less swayed by the argument that an administrator should qualify for tenure. I may be the only member of my family with a master's degree, but I don't think any less of the capabilities or intelligence of my family with only bachelor's or "some college" education. The only job I should be more qualified for, since my master's isn't in a business or engineering field, is professor. Not president or fundraiser.

That said, I'm not going to the meet-the-candidate forum this evening, and wouldn't even if I didn't have prior plans. The Board of Regents may or may not be swayed by student and faculty concerns; I'm inclined to believe "not". Aside from a continuing cynical attitude toward bureaucracy in general and academic politics in particular, I still don't find University President worth protesting on as little information as students have been given. If we were in a fight as symbolic as Deaf President Now, I would join in, but there is nothing symbolic or meaningful in a right-wing politician being appointed university president in a conservative state during a national battle between liberals and conservatives.

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